Art in All of Us
Posted January 10, 2008on:
Art in All of Us (SM) (AiA) is a not-for-profit organization based in Belgium and in the USA (501(c)(3)) that promotes tolerance with creative cultural exchange activities throughout the 192 UN listed countries, using Art. Inspiring the children around the world is part of our Mission and Itinerary
Anthony Asael and Stephanie Rabemiafara are the founders and leading photographers of Art in All of Us. They have built a strong team and multicultural network of important NGO’s and Foundations around them.
Today, we talk to Anthony Asael about his project. Born in Belgium from a Turkish mother and an Italian father, Anthony has always lived in a multicultural environment. He has always been a globetrotter for both his work and spare time. Anthony sports a pleasant, yet mischieveous smile, just like a young boy. That was enough for me to not ask for his age: his aura was enough to convey that he is young at heart – perhaps the youngest I know.
Tabish: Tell us who you were before you were AiA.
Anthony: Tricky question… *smiles* I think I have an uncommon course of life. I was born from an Italian father, Turkish mother and Cuban born grandmother in Belgium. I studied engineering and management, but my first job was as a truck driver, my second being a diplomat in India 10 years ago. Just before starting Art in All of Us, I was working in high managerial position in a IT company in Chile. Three years ago, I decided to stop it completely and dedicate myself fully to my dream and founded AiA. Starting travelling from my early ages, I always wanted to do something for kids and tolerance. Working with children to promote tolerance was obvious as they are the adults of tomorrow. Ideas bounced around in my head for a while. Playing photographer since I was 7, also helped me to shape the organization around photography and art in general. Art in the universal language understood by anyone around the world.
T: What were you exactly doing when this idea came to your mind?
A: It is not like you wake up one morning, and you have the idea to do something like this. It is a continuous process. I will tell you what I was doing when we found the name for “Art in All of Us.” It was about 3 A.M. and I was dancing salsa in Chile with Stephanie, co-founder of Art in All of Us and in the middle of a song I stopped and asked for a pen and wrote “Art in All of Us” on my hand and asked her to read it for me. And that was it *smiles.*
T: How long did it take to come up with a game plan for AiA?
A: Do you mean the photography game of the AiA awareness program? Well, it came up from the start. Photographs play an important part in forming our attitudes towards other people, cultures and places. They can be used to great effect even with very young children, to prompt questions, challenge stereotypes, build empathy and develop respect for children’s own and other cultures.
T: How was the idea met with others? Who did you tell about it first?
A: We didn’t tell too many people, and the one we told were just astonished or amazed but did not really believe we could actually do it. It then was time to find an important partner, which we did with the UNICEF. Today, we have worked with UNICEF offices in over 80 countries (out of 151). This generated trust and respect from their at headquarters at the UN in New York.
T: What has AiA accomplished since then?
A: We have been invited to speak at the Education for Global Citizens Forum at Harvard University. It is a huge honor for Art in All of Us to be recognized by Harvard University as a leading and creative actor in the Global Citizenship Education sector.
Anthony goes on to list statistics:
“Adults like numbers,” he says. “More than 10,000 children from 220 school in 151 countries have participated in our activities over the last 2 years.”
Anthony happens to be in love with children. No surprise since he still wears an innocent, boyish smile. It shed a light of hope for all of our nations, spanning the seas and lands. He seems to be in touch with his inner child, despite having accomplished so much in this material world. He likes to give something back. His compensation? Children’s emotions.
Adam, St-Vincent, November 2007 (9 years old)
‘Introducing Art to our school and Art in All of Us visit was the best thing we had this year at school’
Lucy, Antigua, October 2007 (9 years old)
“thank you for bringing love, peace and creativity to our school”
T: I noted that you and your counterpart were hosted by different people from different countries. I myself had offered to host you two. How was this idea met by people and how hospitable were they?
A: Indeed Art in All of Us is still mainly auto-financed and therefore to cut costs, we avoid staying at hotels. Through a big network of friends and of friends of friends and through the help of Couch Surfing, we managed to stay out of hotels in 87% of the nights. We stayed at all kind of families’ homes from all social backgrounds. People all around the world are extremely hospitable and receive us most of the time as family. Our visit permits the family to travel a little bit virtually and for us it is the best way to know more about their culture. We don’t stay much time in each country and therefore we have no time to do some sightseeing. We prefer peopleseeing.
T: What do you have planned for the future of AiA?
A: Our three programs are working well (AiA Pen Pal Program, AiA Awarness Program, AiA World Art Book) and we receive, every day, more demands from schools to participate. We intend to grow our team of volunteers around the world to help us cope with this demand. We have also plans for new programs in 2008-09, but I cannot tell you more about it today. it will be a huge surprise for our supporters *winks*
By the end of 2008, we will be starting working on Art in All of Us book where all countries will be represented by photographs and children’s artworks. It will be a huge amount of work to assemble the tens of thousands of children work on one book and have it translated. A launch date for the book and exhibition has been set for September 09.
I end the interview with a typical question posed to any visionary. “Any message for the future generations?” I ask.
Reminiscent of Mahatma Gandhi, Anthony says, “It is classical, but so important: be the change you want the World to be.”The AiA’s work is also reminiscent of the Aga Khan Development Network, even though the approach is different. The AKDN, under His Highness, The Prince Karim Aga Khan has been striving to improve the conditions of living of people all across the world including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa.
More information about the program may be found at www.artinallofus.org